The 26 Classic Vodka Cocktails You Must Try

You may think of yourself as the next James Bond by ordering a Vesper Dry Martini, shaken, not stirred, with a sliver of lemon but there are many other vodka cocktails you should try.

From the Moscow Mule to the Vodka Sour, and the favorite of Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City, the Cosmopolitan, vodka is a key ingredient in cocktail-making so stock up on the good stuff.

A lot of these cocktails can be created with some very basic ingredients too, and you may not even need a cocktail shaker but you will need ice and a lot of it.

The 26 Classic Vodka Cocktails You Must Try

Try to make sure you have the right glasses too as they can make a crucial difference in how you enjoy certain vodka-based cocktails.

Some of them require a martini glass which you can coat in sugar beforehand while others need a rocks glass to create a condensed and thick enough egg white foam.

Ensure that you do stock up on ice too as some recipes will require your serving glass to be filled with the stuff as well as the cocktail shaker.

If you are having a cocktail evening with friends then that ice can soon run out and you may have to resort to beer or wine. 

In this guide, we will look at 23 classic vodka cocktails that you simply must try. There is also a bonus section of cocktails that can double up as decadent desserts to have after dinner.

The Equipment You Will Need

To make the most out of a lot of these vodka cocktails, you will need a cocktail shaker, some ice, and a few fruit juices too.

However, for the more complex cocktails, you may need additional liqueur, sugar, salt, heavy cream, fruit, and even salad vegetables.

Here’s the equipment you should have before you decide to head to the shops to stock up on mixers and garnishes.  

  • Ice
  • Cocktail Shaker
  • Martini/Coupe Glass
  • Highball/Collins Glass
  • Rocks Glass
  • Copper Mug
  • Long Stirrer
  • Simple Syrup (possibly two with one of 1:1 ratio and the second favoring sugar 2:1)

Why Vodka Cocktails Are Still Popular

Perhaps it is down to the enduring appeal of James Bond but vodka cocktails have never truly gone out of fashion.

Great vodka can be bought quite readily in the shops and not break the bank yet it proves to be such a versatile spirit to use as it can provide an alcoholic base to so many other flavors yet not be too overpowering.

Its versatility was first noted in the 1940s when it was marketed as a pure, clear, and clean spirit that could be mixed with almost anything. The spirit has barely changed since then as it still remains neutral and should have little aroma. 

With such subtlety, vodka continues to be a go-to base for several cocktails and can still be used in new ones too.

While some spirits and liqueurs can be the dominant force in a cocktail, such as when rum or whiskey is used, vodka hovers in the background and supports everything else.

That subtlety is one of the reasons why there is such a huge variety of vodka-based cocktails and why more continue to be added to the list.

However, you should also check the raw ingredient your vodka is made from as you may prefer any out of rye grain, potato, or rice but you should still try it first.

The Garnishes You Should Have Available

The garnishes you should have available for vodka cocktails are wide-ranging but they should take after the cocktails you are making. For instance, you will need some orange juice for a Screwdriver so add a slice of orange as a garnish.

A Vodka Soda also uses lime juice so use a lime wedge as a garnish, you can also squeeze some more lime juice if you want to as well.

Then again, there is always the typical garnish for a Dry Martini which is a sliver of lemon, though you can use an olive too. 

If you are making an Espresso Martini you really should not go without some coffee beans sprinkled on the top. The same goes for a Lemon Drop Martini which simply calls for a sugar-coated rim.

A Kentucky Peach implores you to add a slice of peach to it as well, despite the fact it requires a peach to be muddled for the cocktail itself (see also ‘24 Delicious Peach Cocktails You Simply Have To Try‘).

A Vodka Collins and a Vodka Sour also tend to require a cocktail cherry to really top them off so you may consider investing in some maraschino cherries. 

The 26 Classic Vodka Cocktails You Must Try

  • Salty Dog
  • Moscow Mule
  • White Russian
  • Black Russian
  • Sex On The Beach
  • Madras
  • Cosmopolitan
  • Espresso Martini
  • Vesper Dry Martini
  • Vodka Martini
  • Vodka Gimlet
  • Vodka Sour
  • Vodka Collins
  • Lemon Drop Martini
  • Vodka Soda
  • Sea Breeze
  • Screwdriver
  • Kentucky Peach
  • Vodka Watermelon
  • Vodka Cranberry
  • Bloody Mary
  • Vodka Tonic
  • Bernice
  • Frozen Mudslide
  • Caramel Apple Martini
  • Chocolate White Russian

1. Salty Dog

The name of a Salty Dog comes from the Greyhound cocktail which is vodka or gin with grapefruit juice though the salted rim makes the difference here.

Add the vodka to an ice-filled, salt-rimmed glass then add grapefruit juice and stir together though try to avoid making contact with the rim. Garnish the drink with a slice of grapefruit.

2. Moscow Mule

With only three ingredients, it would be rude not to make a Moscow Mule. Fill a glass or copper mug with ice then pour in the vodka with the juice of half a lime and top up with ginger beer.

Stir it gently to combine then garnish with a lime wedge. 

3. White Russian

Anyone who has seen the film, ‘The Big Lebowski’ should recognize a White Russian. Fill a rocks glass with ice then add Kahlua and vodka. Top the concoction with heavy cream and stir to mix. Try to look cool in a dressing gown and enjoy.

4. Black Russian

For a complex flavored vodka cocktail without much effort, create a Black Russian. Throw some ice cubes into a highball glass then add vodka and coffee liqueur. Stir and sip, simple as that and you get such a moreish flavor. 

5. Sex On The Beach

Another classic vodka cocktail is Sex on the Beach and it only needs a few more ingredients than most of the cocktails on this list.

In a cocktail shaker, combine vodka with peach schnapps and orange juice then shake vigorously. Pour it into an ice-filled glass then add more vodka on top.

Separately mix the Chambord (though you can use Grenadine) and cranberry juice then carefully pour it on top of the ice cubes and the orange layer for a layered effect.

6. Madras

Close to a Vodka Cranberry, put some fresh ice into a highball glass then pour in vodka, orange juice, and cranberry juice. Mix it together then squeeze over a wedge of lime which you can throw in too or use as a garnish.

7. Cosmopolitan

Arguably THE classic vodka cocktail. Mix equal parts vodka and Cointreau triple sec (see also ‘5 Triple Sec Substitutes‘) with cranberry juice, lime juice, and Angostura Orange Bitters. Shake them with ice then strain it into a chilled coupe glass. 

8. Espresso Martini

For a vodka cocktail that should give you a caffeine kick, try the Espresso Martini. Mix hot, freshly made espresso with vodka, coffee liqueur, and a pinch of salt which is optional.

Shake it in a cocktail shaker with ice then strain it into a chilled glass. Garnish with a few coffee beans.  

9. Vesper Dry Martini

Granted, there is more dry gin than vodka in a Vesper Dry Martini yet you really should try one as it should count as a vodka cocktail. Shake your gin, vodka, Kina aromatized wine, and Lillet Blanc with ice then strain into a chilled glass.

Serve with a sliver of lemon like James Bond would or an olive or two which can add a sophisticated twist of a different sort.

10. Vodka Martini

Of course, you will need a martini glass for this one and the ingredients should be shaken, though they can also be stirred with ice.

Pour your vodka then add Martini Extra Dry Vermouth which amounts to 10% of the vodka. Let’s say you have 50ml of vodka then you only need 5ml of vermouth.

Shake, or stir, then strain into a chilled glass.  

11. Vodka Gimlet

A classy, simple vodka cocktail is the Vodka Gimlet which you can serve in a martini glass. Throw some ice cubes into a cocktail shaker and add the vodka, simple syrup, and lime juice.

Shake vigorously until well-chilled and pour into the chilled martini glass. Garnish with a delicate lime wheel.

12. Vodka Sour

For any sour cocktail, you will need lemon juice and an egg white. First, add your vodka, lemon juice, lime juice, Angostura bitters, simple syrup, and egg white to a cocktail shaker.

Shake it well for around 15 seconds and the egg white should have frothed up.

Add ice to the shaker then shake for another 30 seconds and strain into a chilled rocks glass and the foam should collect at the top where you can balance on a cocktail cherry.

13. Vodka Collins

The Vodka Collins should feel effortless but so rewarding. In a highball glass, combine vodka and simple syrup with lemon juice and add ice. Top it all off with some soda water and garnish with a cocktail cherry. 

14. Lemon Drop Martini

A Lemon Drop Martini can be sweet and sour, all in the same mouthful. Wet the rim of the martini glass and coat it in sugar then set aside. .

In a cocktail shaker with ice, add vodka, triple sec, lemon juice, and simple syrup then shake. Strain the cocktail into the martini glass and avoid knocking the sugar off the rim.

15. Vodka Soda

With only three ingredients, a Vodka Soda is a ludicrously easy and refreshing cocktail to create. Simply place the vodka with the lime juice in a highball glass and add ice. Top it off with some soda water and maybe garnish with a slice of lime.

16. Sea Breeze

You should be specific with your cocktails so ensure that you get 100% unsweetened cranberry juice and not the cranberry cocktail or sweetened varieties.

In a glass, stir together the vodka, grapefruit juice, and simple syrup then add ice. Gradually pour in the cranberry juice and squeeze a lime wedge which you can throw in too or use as a garnish. 

17. Screwdriver

The humble screwdriver is a simple tool and so is the cocktail that takes its name. Yes, it’s simply vodka and orange juice but it works so well and you only need to apply a simple ratio.

One part vodka, two parts orange juice over ice with an orange slice for a garnish in a highball glass. Simple.

18. Kentucky Peach

For a delicious summer vodka cocktail, muddle a sliced peach in a cocktail shaker. Throw in peach vodka, lemonade and simple syrup with Bourbon whiskey and ice then shake.

Pour the cocktail into a glass filled with ice and garnish with some peach slices.  

19. Vodka Watermelon

You will need a blender for this refreshing vodka cocktail recipe. Blitz chilled watermelon (remove the seeds) with coconut water, and freshly squeezed lime juice.

Pour into a pitcher or a glass then add the vodka and stir then serve over ice and garnish with fresh mint and lime wedges (see also ‘The 20 Freshest & Mintiest Cocktail Out There‘).

20. Vodka Cranberry

Grab some ice and half-fill an old-fashioned glass then pour in vodka, cranberry juice, and dashes of orange juice and Rose’s lime. Stir it around and sip with a straw.

21. Bloody Mary

You can also have a vodka cocktail the morning after the night before.

A Bloody Mary is prepared by muddling yellow bell pepper in a cocktail shaker and then adding vodka, tomato juice, Amontillado sherry, lemon juice, strong sugar syrup, celery salt, black pepper, hot red pepper sauce, and Worcestershire sauce.

Add the ice then rotate the ingredients and finely strain into a Collins glass that is already filled with ice.

22. Vodka Tonic

Yes, you only need two ingredients for a Vodka Tonic. Fill your highball glass with ice then add vodka and top it off with tonic water.

Squeeze a lemon wedge over the cocktail and you can throw it in too then stir or use a separate lemon wedge as a garnish.

23. Bernice

A Bernice can be an incredibly stylish vodka cocktail, especially when served in a coupe glass with a mint leaf. Shake together vodka, Galliano, lime juice, strong sugar syrup, and absinthe with ice. Strain into a chilled coupe glass and enjoy.

24. Frozen Mudslide

In a blender, place some ice cubes and cover with vanilla ice cream, and equal parts vodka, Irish Cream, Kahlua, and chocolate syrup. Blend it all under smooth then pour into a chilled glass.

You can also chill the Mudslide even more in the freezer and then top with whipped cream.

25. Caramel Apple Martini

This vodka cocktail is ideal for fall and you can use caramel schnapps or toffee, even butterscotch works. Pour in your schnapps with vodka and apple cider then add plenty of ice.

Careful not to shake too vigorously as the cider can cause internal pressure so you can use apple juice instead. Strain the cocktail into martini glasses and garnish with a slice of apple. 

26. Chocolate White Russian

For an even more decadent take on a White Russian, add some chocolate syrup. Fill your rocks glass with ice then drizzle over the chocolate syrup. Add Kahlua, vodka, and heavy cream then stir it all together.

Final Thoughts

As arguably the most versatile and widely available spirit there is, vodka has been a staple ingredient for cocktail-making since the 1940s.

That looks unlikely to change due to how subtle the spirit is in a cocktail, helping to build and support the other flavors rather than dominate them.

With that in mind, there are so many vodka-based cocktails you should want to try at home that you may have seen made in a bar.

Try to get some friends together and host a cocktail party which could mean digging out some martini, coupe, or highball glasses.

Your friends could bring select mixers and soon enough you could be making Cosmopolitans, Vodka Martinis, and Screwdrivers at a fraction of the price.

The garnishes are also simple yet very effective as you typically only need some fruit or a pack of cocktail cherries. You could even watch a Bond film and pretend to be James Bond as you sip on a Vesper Dry Martini, shaken, not stirred.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Are Good Mixers To Go With Vodka?

There are some really simple mixers you can use to create a simple drink with vodka. You can use tonic water, soda water, cranberry juice, orange juice, or ginger beer.

Try to ensure that you serve these with ice and perhaps a slice of fruit for a garnish or a cocktail cherry.

What Is Another Name For Vodka And Coke?

As a variation of a Rum and Coke, also known as a Cuba Libre, a Vodka and Coke doesn’t actually have its own name. It can still be served with a slice of lime too though the coke is genuinely used to mask poor-tasting vodka.

The 26 Classic Vodka Cocktails You Must Try

The 26 Classic Vodka Cocktails You Must Try

Recipe by Jenna

Put down your vodka and coke and make some simple, yet stylish classic vodka cocktails instead. Here we look at the 23 classic vodka cocktails you must try

Course: Beverages
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